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Rabbi's Blog: Yom HaShoah & The Stories We Should Tell

04/17/2023 02:59:16 PM



Dear OZ family,


In the immediate aftermath of Yetziat Mitzrayim, we were told to have ready answers for the questions children would ask about our experiences. Millennia of such experiences has taught us that the best way to impart such memories is through the telling of stories. This is why the Mitzvah of relating the Haggadah is called “Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim”, the story of leaving Egypt. To this day there are those who deny our suffering in Egypt. They don’t believe there was ever a prolonged slavery of our people. They believe we fabricated the story to draw a connection to the land of Israel. Our answer to Yetziat Mitzrayim denial is to continue telling the story year after year, to our children, and our children’s children.


History repeats itself. Immediately after the Holocaust, the voices of denial were in full force. They too claimed that the Holocaust was fabricated to justify a need for a homeland. We must respond as we do at the Seder, by telling the story again and again to our children and our children’s children. The second and third generations must step forward and keep the stories alive. Many survivors were unable to tell the stories of the unspeakable losses they suffered. Many wanted to inoculate their own children from the horrors they experienced. Many were only able to speak up at the Seder, and they gave new meaning to the Mitzva of considering it as if though we left Egypt ourselves. They actually did, and worse.


Tonight is Yom Hashoah and OZ will be hosting a community-wide program that will tell the story of a ship’s journey to find a haven from the death that was Europe for its passengers. You can RSVP at Mark Englander, the son of one of those passengers will tell the story. The program begins at 8pm in the Bet Medrash, after Mincha & Maariv which begins at 7:25 in the Main Shul. There will be another Maariv after the program.


In last week’s Parsha, the Midrash says that Aharon received great reward for remaining silent in the face of the sudden and tragic loss of his two sons. On the seventh day of Pesach in Efrat the Hallel began in a most somber way. No one was in the mood to sing any of the paragraphs of Hallel. After the first chapter was recited, Rabbi Dee, whose wife, and two daughters had been savagely murdered just days before, whispered in the ear of the Shliach Tzibbur, who then began singing the rest of Hallel. When asked afterwards what was whispered, the Chazan said that he was told that the joy of Yom Tov should not be diminished because of the tragedy. Surely this singing is every bit as praiseworthy as Aharon’s silence. Also, Mrs. Dee, who succumbed to her wounds a few days after the attack, saved 5 lives, with her organs. These are stories that should be told throughout the land.


In the end, I know that Yetziat Mitzrayim happened the same way I know that the Holocaust happened. My father told me the story.


Stay well and healthy.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz   

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200



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